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Six months ago I never imagined I’d be working from home in 2020, or that almost the whole of my company would be too. And while it took some time to adjust, the technology we needed was already there.
Think for a moment about staff in other workplaces like factories or industrial sites. How do they work remotely? Plant personnel often work in close proximity to each other and need access to information from machinery, display panels and control consoles. The good news for manufacturing is that there are actually already remote management solutions on the market that can be implemented quickly, in a smart way, for little investment.
Technology such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and remote access are key for helping Industry adapt during this crisis and beyond, especially those in critical industries like food and beverage and water utilities. Solutions based on these technologies can help in a number of ways:
- Keeping up production while still meeting new health regulations such as the need for social distancing and not touching equipment.
- Allowing workers to access external support, expertise and training while still meeting travel restrictions.
- Providing real-time access to remote experts for troubleshooting advice, and in the event of a breakdown help get things running faster.
Before these solutions were seen as state of the art or ‘nice to have’ gadgets, but for us – and our customers – they’ve become essential to help maintain social distancing and minimize the number of people on site. In fact, in more than 200 Schneider Electric factories around the world, we couldn’t have maintained production while ensuring the health and safety of our people without them.
What do we mean by remote management?
Remote management strategies can encompass different levels of ‘remoteness’, for example:
- The ability to maintain social distancing by being the appropriate distance away from a machine or other people, and not touching the screen or equipment.
- Operating a plant from the office area so that you can have fewer people on the plant floor.
- Managing operations from the other side of the country with a Unified Operations Center.
Similarly, remote management solutions can be implemented in the short term to recover from the crisis, to rebound in the medium term, or in the long term to rethink your operations.
Types of solutions to help you on the path to remote operations
As with any IIoT project, cybersecurity is the first thing you need to consider for remote management. A non-intrusive IT connection solution can help you establish remote connectivity with your existing infrastructure quickly, easily and without making major changes to control systems.
Applications and analytics
This step is about putting operational analysis and insights into the hands of those who need them using EcoStruxure advisors and software. An example of this is the augmented reality solution where key operating and troubleshooting Information is superimposed on a real-world view of the plant, allowing operators access different parts of the plant, on or off site.
Maximising return on investment
Partnering with the right technology provider is key to helping you get the most value and addressing your business challenges. With their expertise and experience, our partner TechBinder was able to help a Dutch bakery understand how remote management solutions could help them address their operational challenges at this critical time. Using augmented reality and remote support tools, more inexperienced operators were able to do the same work as experienced operators, allowing fewer people to be onsite. It also freed up more experienced workers to do high value work in the business.
If you’re unsure where to start, the Schneider Electric Exchange Industrial Automation community is a great place to ask questions and make connections.
Remote management is a smart business investment for today’s short-term. It will help address many of the issues of the heath crisis for plants and may help them restart after recent health related shutdowns.